Destiny's Choice is an original work of fiction, a science fiction thriller of novel length with uber qualities. The plot is layered with romance, political intrigue, sex, and violence. At times the drama can be intense. Enjoy. Once completed I hope to find a publisher. I appreciate comments good and bad, especially if they are constructive.
Chapter 1: Dangers
The assassin crouched low behind the outcropping of throngs, careful to keep the bush's porcupine display of needle thorns from pricking him. He rested his haunches on his heels and wiped his brow. The creviced ledge of the red-rock parapet on which he waited, like the clan's clay-slate oven, reflected the orange-yellow fireball beating down into the narrow canyon. Sweat bubbled and simmered until little dew droplets beaded on his tightly furrowed brow and ran in rivulets along his snout and down his face, matting the downy brown fur on his cheek. He brushed the bothersome stream with the wiper blade of a four-segmented forefinger. The action helped little. The perspiration ran unimpeded. He was damp all over, his shirt soaked through. It clung stiffly, as if starched. The collar chafed. He tugged at it and then shifted his position as his thighs knotted and cramped. Vzul, he thought. Where was the mark? It was more than an hour late.
"There!" His trusted lookout on the next hill pointed toward the trees at the south end of the canyoned corridor.
He looked up and squinted into the glaring sun. Off in the distance, from behind the trees, he detected a dusty puff. Fire? No, not fire, smoke from a fire would be much darker, blacker, organic. He looked for the road. Hidden by scrag and other native shrubs and low growing trees, the road, from this vantage point, was barely visible, but the sooty dust rising above the tree line confirmed the initial sighting. Something was approaching. Just what, he wasn't sure, he only hoped it was the target. He didn't know how much more heat he could endure. He certainly should have factored in the heat, and so he decided, when he had finished this job, he would go back and demand more compensation, just enough to make up for the fluids his body had lost during the hour extra he had waited.
Another cloud of brown-gray road lint dirtied the blueness of the sky. Sheerer than an anemic fog it seeped through the cracks between the trees and scrag.
With patience, he positioned himself to get a better look. Raising up, he strained to get a peek at the road as it curved through the last of the trees and the prickly, low lying scrag. At the midpoint, where the scrag thinned and exposed portions of the canyon's scalp, like the hairline of the old matriarchs, he felt sure he would be able to catch a fleeting glimpse of the specter's silhouette. Then he would know for sure.
Clutching the handle of his rea'k, he checked the tension of what he hoped was a perfectly tuned launch-band. Taut, the band did not budge as his fingers pulled back. He checked the LED gauge. Good, the sun had not disrupted the calibration.
Squinting, he released his hold on the string and readied himself. Was it the target? By all the Lords of Kjaltz, it was hot! Let it be the target, he hoped.
The first hazy image, like a fleeting ghost, raced between the lattices of the brush in the near horizon. From this distance, and without the goggles, which he had given his lookout, he really couldn't tell.
"Jo'k," his lookout motioned˜the target.
Readying his weapon, he raised himself so his torso loomed just above his prickly camouflage and took the high-yield projectile from the gray leathery quiver slung over his shoulder; he loaded it into the launch. He freed the tension clasp and brought the launch-band back to the ready position. The LED activation sequence blinked orange; the weapon was primed and ready.
He twisted the scope over and then up, bringing the viewer to his left eye. The magnifier immediately brought the snaking road as it slithered from seclusion in the scruffy vegetation a hundred times closer. Closing his right eye, he lined up the sight. The diamond zone filled the target's route.
Clasping, releasing, and then clasping the support handle, the muscles in his furry brown forearm tightened. His fingers cramped with anticipation. His head, sweltering and dizzy from the reflective rays of the tortuous sun, spun. The excitement, the anticipation drove his heart as it beat an ironworker's hammer against an anvil; its din, just as loud, echoed in his head. He could not find his breath. It seemed to stop. His lungs would not work. Then his palm's bled perspiration and he found the trigger grip slick and hard to hold.
For a moment, his brain had a chance, for the hundredth time, to examine the morality of what he had come to do. If everything went right, in violation of the sacred teachings of Jon'ai, he would take a life, probably more. Clap! The great teaching no longer held any sway over him. It belonged to the ancients of the clans, to philosophers who hid from progress. Now he worshipped the Lords, the jingling of tal'ts in his palm, that's what mattered˜tal'ts and not getting caught. This was not the first time he had killed for money. It wouldn't be the last. As long as the bastards continued to give him enough so he could live in the style to which he had become accustomed, he would kill anyone, even his mother˜and in this case, Tern's wife, and the humans.
Suddenly, the sleek, white aerodynamic hovervan bulleted with fleeting swiftness from behind the scrag. All internal debates and considerations came to an abrupt end. His physical discomforts, he ignored. He would have only one chance. To dally would mean failure and perhaps seal his fate. He had no desire to suffer the same miserable end he had planned for his intended victims. He had to be quick, accurate.
Two hundred meters, that was all. For only two hundred meters, the human-made vehicle would be in view. In the span of a gnit's wing beat, he had to complete his task, to earn his blood money.
He peered through the viewfinder. His breathing slowed further, and then stopped. The hammering inside his gut beat wildly, but with steadfast calm, he ordered it to decrescendo.
Keeping the fleeting spectral transport within the diamond zone proved difficult as it flew across the unpaved path. It seemed to hop and skip as its aircushion passed over the myriad of rocks, potholes, and other pieces of debris. The most vulnerable point of the target, so small, never still, was even more elusive, but compared to pli'acta hunting, this˜well?
He pulled the trigger. The launch-band snapped forward with a barely audible twack, hurling the silent, barbed volley toward its target. A heartbeat later, as the charge found its mark and broke through the vehicle's main passenger window, an explosion echoed off the walls of the parapet. Small rocks and finite grains of powdery sandstone rained down on where he had waited. However, he was not there. Fleeing as quickly as he could, the assassin did not stay to see the charred hulk-pitching end over end in a great fireball, the effect of his handiwork.
Jeremiah DeBow pushed down on the stop, recorking the old fashioned decanter, the kind every party boss ought to have, he thought to himself. Picking up the half-filled tumbler, he let the golden brown bourbon swirl, then he took a sip. The liquid burned in his throat, and immediately sent its vapors to his head, but he remained clear headed. He always did. He was a man who could hold his own when it came to hard liquor; a necessity considering the harsh, rough and tumble path he had taken to become the Governor General of the United Galactic Confederation. The most powerful man in the entire solar system, maybe even the galaxy he liked to think, considering no one had, as of yet, come across any beings more powerful than Terran humans.
"VAS, off," he said, taking a second sip. The handsome, young Latino newsreader for the Galactic News Net, who had been summarizing the contents of his latest executive order, disappeared from the view screen that dominated his far wall.
He turned back toward the young woman seated in one of the sturdy overstuffed leather chairs. Christine Stone. Handsome, she was tall, not quite two meters. Strong, athletically built, she had mossy brown eyes that matched a mop of rich dark auburn hair that went black whenever she went on the attack, an aristocratic jaw, and lips so full and lush DeBow had thanked the pantheon he had had the chance to feast on them more than once. When she smiled, her teeth were straight, white, even, and thoroughly capable of tearing apart lovers and enemies alike. That was why he had chosen her to replace the milksop who had headed his first try for the governor-generalship..
Like him, she sipped bourbon. Her long fingers played with the heavy, squat tumbler resting in the palm of her large hands, perfect for a basketball player or languid lover, he thought back to the times they had spent together. Possibilities played in DeBow's mind as he took a sip from his tumbler. "Nice work, Stone," he saluted with his glass. "Seems the fourth establishment is going to support us. Franklin looked good for the interview."
"She did . . . plays the press well," she agreed. "Polls show those who matter agree. Your humanitarian efforts to quell the terrorists threatening the peace and stability of Trinidian life could garner you the Peace Prize. After all, Tern lost his wife, his deputy minister of finance˜"
He was watching Christine, imagining her long subtle form brushing against his hand, a cheek, a breast, her hip. "And we lost three cabinet level officials and Consortium's president," DeBow traced the lip of the tumbler. "The public's wanting action. I'm depending on Franklin to do what needs to be done."
He could see her catch his gaze and smile, her alluring gaze winking beneath the soft filtered light. "Franklin knows her orders. Tern's adamant and with the assault, few have questioned your decision to up our defensive posture," Stone smiled.
Perhaps if the mood were right, he might suggest an evening filled with mutual pleasuring, he thought. Just to touch her, to feel those bountiful lips, he ached. He tasted bourbon as he wiped his lips with the tip of his tongue. "She send for Daniels?" Stone nodded. "What of Minsk? Did he get my orders?" his mention of Minsk wakened him from his musings. Besides, he had plans with his wife and son, who had stopped by for a visit.
"Yes. I spoke to him."
"You did?" This was the first DeBow was hearing of this.
"Tranquility Base is our largest base space-side, therefore, a plumb assignment," Stone made quotation marks in the air with her fingers, "a reward for ten years of service on Trinidia. I've had a commendation prepared. Hazel will have it ready for your signature by tomorrow. I've also scheduled you to meet with him day after tomorrow. The press will be there˜."
"Good public relations. Picking up lose ends, I knew I could count on you˜"
The office's intercom beeped, but before DeBow could respond the door leading from the outer foyer opened.
"You can't go in there!" Hazel, his redheaded executive assistant shouted.
"What the hell are you trying to pull?" newly elected Legislative Minister Dr. Kaliska Light Horse barged into the office.
DeBow flinched at the hurricane heading his way.
Shorter than his chief of staff by less than a centimeter, rage painted the creamy-bronze, sapphire-eyed menace. Long dark hair pulled back in a silver clip inlaid with turquoise swung like the butt end of an agitated stallion. Rejecting what was considered suitable dress for those on Parliamentary, and in government and business in general, she wore a thigh-length white linen shirt cinched at her waist with a dark synthetic belt made to resemble leather and black knicks, which she tucked into heavy knee-high boots.
"Light Horse˜?" DeBow's mouth opened and closed, only managing to utter the single syllable of the intruder's last name.
"What are you and Tern up to now?" Light Horse snorted. She stopped short mere millimeters in front of DeBow.
"The Constitution gives me˜" DeBow stared her down.
"Vazul! You and your illegal interpretation˜you know you can't augment Defense Force numbers on Yreta without approval from Parliament."
"This was an emergency," countered DeBow.
"Emergency, like hell! The U.G.C. has no right to interfere in the self-determination of a sovereign, sentient population."
"We're responding to a request from Prime Minister Tern . . . how many more terrorist acts would you allow the Trinidian militants to perpetrate on our citizens?" asked DeBow.
"If our citizens are that worried about terrorism, tell them to leave."
"Leave? We have treaties! Laws!" Stone countered.
"Humans are not Yretan! We have no right to dictate!" Light Horse parried.
Christine took a step, her snarl and height dwarfing Light Horse's similarly imposing stature. "You would turn your back on the Trinidians? Atrocities? Human homes bombed˜the headquarters of Alcoa˜the assassination of Trinidian ministers, Tern's wife, and three our cabinet officials, the murder of Jack Henderson, Consortium's president . . . I could go on . . . all victims of Trinidian rabble."
"Tern," DeBow spoke, adding his voice to the verbal fray.
Light Horse cut him off with a snarl. "A puffed up, greedy, stooge out only for himself, his cronies˜and you!" She pointed an accusatory finger.
"How dare you imply!" boomed DeBow and Stone in unison.
"Little by little˜this administration has done its best to undermine the safeguards of our Constitution!"
"How dare you come into this office and accuse me!"
"You're backing Tern's fraudulent hold on power!"
"The rebels˜" DeBow tried to argue.
"Rebels my ass! The only rebels on Yreta-cuta are those who have opposed Tern's power grab, the same power grab you and your administration are perpetrating on the citizens of the U.G.C."
"You have some gall!" Stone balled her right fist.
"That's why you've brought in Stone, here," Light Horse scoffed. "Chief of Staff?" Light Horse pressed her finger antagonistically into Christine's chest. "I know what you did for the congloms lunarside and Mars, and the shenanigans in the Americas! The Pacific Rim! Your hardball tactics won't work any more˜and I'll see they don't work here! I'm going to expose you, Stone."
"Of what!" she growled, a reddish tint blazing in her darkened eyes.
"I'll get the evidence!"
"The day you rot in hell!" Strong-arming Light Horse, Christine pushed her to the door.
"At least I'll be in good company!"
"Get the fuck out of here before I call security!" DeBow shouted.
"You can't this time. I've got every right. I've got Parliamentary immunity now." Light Horse pulled free and stumbled through the gasping jaw of the office portal.
"Fuck you!" Christine spat one last time.
As the door closed on its track like a guillotine, silence engulfed the room.
"Very diplomatic," DeBow chuckled.
"DeBooooww!" Christine snarled.
"That's why I hired you," DeBow said with a toast of his glass.
Oh well, thought DeBow, Elizabeth wanted me home anyway.
"I'm sorry," Hazel broke the stillness of the uneasy tension. With a swipe of her hand, she pushed back a lock of her hair. It had fallen out of the tight bun she had mummified in a thin white knit scarf.
Refreshing his tumbler, DeBow took an angry gulp.
"Don't worry, Hazel," Christine replied, watching DeBow. "Go on." She turned, admiring the way Hazel's silk blouse draped across her breasts. She moistened her lips and smiled. "You couldn't have stopped her. I'll look into getting a couple of droids programmed to ignore the security clearance of our more troublesome legislators."
Relieved, letting a coy, slightly flirtatious grin slip in reply, Hazel thanked her boss's confident and exited through the yawning door back out into the foyer.
Christine let her gaze linger on Hazel's curves as she watched the receptionist exit and then disappear behind the closing door. DeBow almost chuckled, but did nothing. Christine turned back and watched DeBow fill his glass again.
"That bitch's going to be a problem," DeBow gestured at the door with his glass.
"What's new?" Christine chuckled as she joined DeBow at the well-stocked beverage cart.
"She's been a thorn in my side for too long. Meddlesome academic!"
"Now Armstrong's junior M.P." Christine poured a refill for herself.
"Crusader for justice. That's worse. The question is, how do we neutralize her?" DeBow pondered aloud.
""We've got the nets, no matter how cantankerous they might be˜"
"Tenuous˜if they ever get wind of how we dealt with the split Earthside˜"
"They won't," Christine replied with conviction.
"The workers like her, worship her like some latter-day Chavez or Ngomo."
"She represents a minority of the party, no more than ten percent of the total vote."
"And the outer colonies."
"And they have no voice, or vote."
DeBow continued his musing, "Then there's the academic circles, she speaks in their vernacular."
"The people don't care about academics. Look at the past ∑ history. Without Hitler, there'd never been a World War Two, Islamic fundamentalists and neoconservative Christian doomsday fundamentalists, no World War Three. Still, you're right. What we need to do is fight fire with fire," brooded Christine, her mind racing through their options.
DeBow took a large gulp of his drink and relished its burn. "I can count on you, Christine?" he asked when he had consumed half the glass.
Christine took a sip of her drink and nodded. She placed her free hand on the smaller man's shoulder and replied with understated calm, "You know, that's why I'm here, Jeremiah." A thin, grisly mimic of a grin turned up the corners of her lips. "That's why I'm here."
To be continued in Chapter 2
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